Category Archives: Mindful Eating

A Slow Fusion Is Better Than None

No matter the purpose of my appointment with the neurosurgeon, the conversation always comes down to autoimmune disease. Today’s visit was no different.

This is the same neurosurgeon’s office that–a few weeks ago–rescheduled my appointment without telling me. Beyond that, there was an additional conversation about another scheduling error.

However, we all showed up today at the same time, same place.

As I strolled through the door with my walker, I was greeted as if I were an old friend. Doors were opened for me; lots of chatting ensued.

By the time I saw the neurosurgeon, my volume was on voluble. This was my annual appointment regarding my C2-C4 neck fusion. Only screws and a metal plate are holding the donor bone in place. There has been no fusion.

Until today. What looks like a bit of a blur on an x-ray turned out to be the beginning of healing. It’s slow but it is happening.

“Is my body just slow?” I asked her. The surgery was two years ago.

“Yes. It’s the autoimmune disease, the biologic, and the steroids. They slow down the healing.”

This is always her response. She’s not wrong. The chronic disease process and the medication that limits its effects also limit the fusion process.

I’ve struggled with this since the initial surgery that released my pinched spinal cord. It kept me from becoming a quadriplegic. Methotrexate and prednisone make it possible for me to write every day AND perform my activities of daily living. They give me a life.

The neurosurgeon and I have had long, usually thoughtful–sometimes lively–conversations concerning this obstacle that is my path. We both know that stopping the medication does not guarantee the fusion process will continue, much less speed up.

The war within my body—autoimmune disease—will go on whether I stop the medication or not. I will just know its effects more readily if I reduce my troops.

This is the rock and hard spot that is my path but it is not without a sliver of light. That I am healing means more than a blur on an x-ray. Full fusion is not guaranteed but now, it is a possibility.

Consistency in diet, yoga, and meditation have had an effect. None is a quick fix; all are a lifetime practice. For now, the practice includes methotrexate and prednisone.

I work with the reality I have, and in this moment, it is a sliver of light.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

On the Thin Side

Sometimes, I am keenly aware of the metal in my hips, as well the plate and screws repairing the fracture in my right femur. It’s not a sensation of pain, it’s warmth, a light sunburn.

I am in awe of sinew uniting metal with bone and muscle as I move into my next yoga pose. I am grateful there is less of my body, not only metal replacing joints but simply less of me, physically.

The words of my orthopedic surgeon return, you tend to the thin side. He has only known this body and not the one that once was so much more; as well, he speaks to this mind that, too, shed “a lot of stuff.”  This mind-body is lighter, simpler now, by necessity.

Perhaps I do live on the thin side. I meet life with as few expectations as possible. It makes meeting the impossible less daunting.

Losing weight was not about numbers. I was desperate for food, caught up in my cravings. I had no idea about real hunger versus comfort eating. The more I ate, the more difficult it was for my body to process food.

And I did not know anything about food so I had no understanding of nutrition or inflammation, an issue that has been with me for 40 years. What I did know is that tests revealed a serious allergy to both wheat and yeast (Brewer’s and Baker’s). I began there, seven years ago.

My digestive issues all but disappeared as I removed wheat (and essentially all grains) and yeast from my diet. The relationship between yeast and sugar is a close one. I reduced my intake of high sugar fruit and high carb vegetables as well.

My emphasis was on what food worked for me, understanding that my body is unique and so are its nutritional needs. It is true that weight vanishes with nutrient dense food. Inflammation is another matter but food plays a role.

To help reduce inflammation, I increased my intake of greens, my fluids, and certain fruits, for me blackberries. For a time diet controlled my inflammation but no longer, as my disease process is now chronic. Yet, medication works better when I feed my body what it can use rather than what it cannot.

If the way I live is a tendency to the thin side, then yes. I carry less, which seems to make more possible. The opposite was true years ago when I was so much more but on the fringe of life, a side too thin.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Staying in the Mix

It seems to me that our three basic needs,

for food and security and love,

are so mixed and mingled and entwined

 that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.

 M.F.K. Fisher

This quotation reminds me of the Oneness of us all, the wholeness of the human experience. So often I single out—separate to solve.   

It is not that each need cannot use a day of airing out, an examination to be sure all is well. That’s healthy. Yet, if all seems well, I’m tempted to make sure it stays that way. sunday-anhingas-0313

“Don’t fix what ain’t broke” is its own kind of sense except I am not a stagnant being. To be alive is to change; it is the essence of my nature.

Love will wither if left all on its own; as well will the body hunger if nourished without love; what was once a secure sense of being tumbles quickly into a fearful one.

It is the mix and mingle—the entwining— that restores my balance. Oneness is the constancy, the backdrop against which the chaos of life plays out.

Separate, I cannot “straightly think” of the mix and mingle that is me.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

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There Isn’t Always a Reason

Let there be moments, unexplainable.

Let there be a few things that are mysterious,

for which you cannot supply any reason.

 Osho

When I came across the Osho quote this morning, I thought of chronic illness. I have no idea of the context of the quote but I doubt it is chronic illness.

Of late, I am more ill than not so my perception is a bit skewed but even on the good days, the energy of chronic illness is illusive.

There is always a daily dose if not always a daily blog post. 😉

Wondering 0614Some days, to aim for even is all I can do in my activities of daily living. After nearly four decades, I no longer get caught up in the why or the how. Both are in the bin of the unexplainable.

Chronic illness is a chaotic conversation— all but unintelligible—signals between body and mind. It is a vibrant world of sensation. The more I pursue, the more I perceive the mystery that is never solved. Reason has little to do with it.

Accepting the unexplainable has been a long time coming but it means that chronic illness is and has always been my most remarkable teacher. Consistently, it demands although it is inconsistent in its demands. There is no reason in that, either.

These days I don’t fight chronic illness nor do I put it on display as a series of labels. It is not a competition or a drama. Both are a waste of time.

I am not my body or my mind but a “pure center of awareness,” an acceptance of the unexplainable, an appreciation of the mysterious.

To date, that might be the most important lesson chronic illness has taught me: explore the mystery for there isn’t always a reason.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

A Taste of Shenpa, Hot and Spicy Wings

As one who loves to eat, I am always on the lookout for food’s goodness. For 58 years, there was not a food or drink that I did not indulge, no matter the consequences to my health.

Six years ago, those consequences came to call. The years of binge eating and poor nutrition choices resulted in numerous food allergies. Every time I ate, I was in digestive discomfort and my joints hurt.

I was always hungry, unable to absorb most nutrients. It took three years of researching and experimenting to figure out which foods feed my body.

Sometimes, I resort to old eating behaviors. It often happens as I come out of an autoimmune disease flare up. It is the craving mindset—shenpa in Buddhism—getting hooked or sucked in by an old choice.

I have been craving hot and spicy wings, a mindset that accompanied most of my flare-up. Yesterday, the mindset broke through. I wrote through lunch and into the midpoint of the afternoon. It was too early for supper and too late for dinner.

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That is prime time for purchasing hot and spicy wings prepared by a nearby grocery store. They are not breaded, no sugar is used but they do have natural flavorings, a catchall ingredient that is ever mysterious and never natural.

I told myself I would eat just a few, maybe four, and so I ate six, possibly seven. Within a few hours, I was feeling the effects but this time a poor choice proved a good result.

For the first time, the reality of joint pain and digestive discomfort–increasing inflammation–was more powerful than my craving for hot and spicy wings.

Insufficient fuel for my body—mindfulness—meant more than mindset.

Literally, the pain from eating the wings was more powerful than my craving. It seemed only seconds and the craving was gone. I doubt its return.

There is something to be gained for straying into food choices that do not fuel my body. Over time, I have learned which nutrient dense foods will help even out my body’s reaction.

This time, I got results within hours; that does not always happen. I remain grateful.

Eating mindfully is not about labeling food as good or bad. There’s no judgment involved. Mindful eating means being aware of what each food offers my body. All food is fuel. The choice is mine.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

 

Perfect Storm: My Energy for the Day

Physically, this is a perfect storm day for me. My spinal cord and autoimmune disease are merging into my version of a category one hurricane. I predict it will not become a category five.

After 40 years, my forecasts are fairly reliable.

How I engage this powerful energy determines the life of the storm. There is no destroying chronic illness but there are ways to extract its energy.

My immune system is stuck in on–fight mode–so infections are rare but joint pain, fatigue, and anemia are chronic. Spinal cord disease affects my limbs.

Together, they have taught me to appreciate the daily doses of energy available.

As they are teachers, they require attendance and attention. Always, there are daily lessons. No day begins without meditation, the mind-body’s way of becoming completely present both within and outside the body.

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I practice mindfulness meditation–“sitting” with sensations—immersing myself in their rising and detaching as they subside. I do not meditate to escape.

A gentle yoga practice works with the signals my body sends, in particular pain. Meditation strips away the fear and anxiety surrounding pain, leaving pure energy; in yoga, the breath softens the signals into a solitary, vibrant flow.

Both meditation and yoga open me to the experience that is this day and this day alone. Tomorrow is, well…tomorrow. What they have in common is love, the energy that animates our being.

The only meaningful thing we can offer one another is love.

Not advice, not questions about our choices,

not suggestions for the future, just love.

 Glennon Doyle Melton

I know that life is impermanent; I suspect love is invincible.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

 

Learning to Eat an Orange

There are some people who eat an orange but don’t really eat it.

They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I was such a person. Eating and drinking kept me in a comfortable, albeit blurred, presence. Six years ago, my body said, “Enough!” Ultimately, I turned into a nutritional research laboratory.

I wanted to learn to eat an orange.

embraceable-091016Like health and sexuality writer August McLaughlin, I wanted to discover food’s “goodness… Discover what particular foods did for me. If they were not for managing weight, why eat?”

Employing different methods, we both discovered that food is fuel. The concept is basic but nutrition is layered in nuance. It is one thing to understand the nutrients in food; it is another to create a mindful meal.

Mindful eating is not about good or bad food. Rather than judgment there is an awareness of what each food offers us. We choose our fuel.

Experiment after experiment showed me that grains, starches, dairy, and yeast do not offer me nutrients that my body can easily absorb. No matter how many times I varied my hypothesis, the results were the same.

Acceptance was slow as was finding food that pleased my palate as well as my digestive system. Yet, the more mindful I was in my eating, the more creative I was in my cooking.

Only in retrospect do I recognize what a tidal wave of impermanence this was. I continue to experiment, sometimes returning to food I once enjoyed.

Always, I find the memory more pleasant than the reality. It is as if I “grew” new taste buds, letting old ones wither.

Regardless, it is mindful eating, selecting the fuel and accepting the outcome without judgment.

* From Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, August McLaughlin. The essays in this collection celebrate women’s sexual empowerment. These are unique stories–compelling, insightful, and inspirational.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.